These culture wars will pass but not without taking a toll


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In this April 19, 2019 file photo, a gay pride rainbow flag flies along with the US flag in front of a church.

In this April 19, 2019 file photo, a gay pride rainbow flag flies along with the US flag in front of a church.


The loud voices from every side involved in the “culture wars” give me pause, and I remember the experience of my mother.

She was a divorced woman with six children in Kannapolis, during the 1940-’60s. She hemmed washcloths in Cannon Plant #1 and attended a local Baptist church. It’s that church’s treatment of my mother in the ’50s that caused me to remember. While I was only a boy of 8 or so, I was old enough to hear adult talk and sense something was wrong.

A devout Christian, my mother took all six of us to church twice each Sunday and every Wednesday night. She believe and worked to make sure we believed. The church accepted our presence, but my mother was told by church deacons she would not be allowed to teach children Sunday School because she was divorced. As one deacon strongly pointed out, the Bible taught against divorce, and it did not matter that my father was an abusive alcoholic who had deserted his wife and children. She was divorced, so no teaching children for her.

A few years after this ugliness, we moved and began attending another Baptist church. My mother confessed that she felt uncomfortable in a woman’s Sunday school class because she was the only divorced woman and was often reminded of that fact, either directly or indirectly.

However, before long the church announced that an adult was needed to teach the children’s Sunday school. My mother stepped up. She taught for the next 50 years. When she retired, the church named the children’s Sunday school wing in honor of her — the divorced woman who was at one time “unfit” to teach in her Baptist church.

More than 60 years have passed and though I no longer attend a Baptist church, over those years I, a divorced man, was a deacon and Sunday school teacher in a Baptist church. Some Baptist churches even have divorced pastors.

There has been a cosmic shift and our culture survives. The issue of divorce was not the only cultural change over the years, but it demonstrates that things do change, and our culture can and does change as well.

These days, many church attendees are quick to point out the sins of homosexuals. While admitting “we are all sinners,” they seem to condemn homosexuals because, as I am often told by these churchgoers, “They continue their sinning lifestyle.”

Yet, the same churchgoers will admit that every church is “full of sinners.” But they seem to favor some sins over others. I once saw a church sign that read: “Don’t judge the other person because they sin differently than you do.” Amen to that.

What I find wrong in my mother’s ordeal with her first church and what she initially experienced at her second is not what the Bible teaches, but how some deacons and church members interrupt its teachings. The Bible is a complex book that teaches simple truths such as “Love one another as I have loved you.” All of this noise surrounding critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ issues and more will pass, but it will take its toll, just as the “good deacons” did with my mother.

But my mother knew that the battle was not about her, but one within each of the church leaders who were searching for an external enemy instead of looking inward, where the greater threat stirred. Their names do not appear anywhere honoring their service to either church. But the divorced woman’s does.

Roger Barbee lives in Mooresville. He’s now 75 and attends a Lutheran church.